Trying to follow both state and federal wage and hour laws isn’t that hard.
Let’s say you’re a restaurant with a waitstaff. Like most restaurants nowadays, your customers pay by credit card and you, the employer, have to pay the credit card company a percentage on each sale.
You know there are rules regarding deductions of the wages to employees. But what about tips? Can you take out the percentage of fees being charged by the credit card company on the tips?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor: Yes.
In its fact sheet, the USDOL makes it plain that such actions by an employer do not violate federal law, so long as they are limited to the fees on the tips themselves.
Where tips are charged on a credit card and the employer must pay the credit card company a percentage on each sale, the employer may pay the employee the tip, less that percentage. For example, where a credit card company charges an employer 3 percent on all sales charged to its credit service, the employer may pay the tipped employee 97 percent of the tips without violating the FLSA.
The DOL also has 2006 opinion letter bolstering its views here. Even Connecticut, in an unofficial guidance, permits the practice.
While that aspect is clear, the remaining aspects of tip pooling are still very much being debated. According to a DOL Field Bulletin this spring, in the Conolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, the Act provided that certain other portions of DOL regulations that barred tip pooling when employers pay tipped employees at least the full FLSA minimum wage and do not claim a tip credit no long have further force or effect.
As a result, according to the DOL, “employers who pay the full FLSA minimum wage are no longer prohibited from allowing employees who are not customarily and regularly tipped—such as cooks and dishwashers—to participate in tip pools.”
And if that weren’t confusing enough, employers in Connecticut also need to comply with the Wage Order drafted by the Connecticut Department of Labor that has additional guidance on tip pooling.
Employers must continue to tread cautiously in the area of wages. Minefields continue to be ever present — and the impact of a failure to comply with the law can be costly.